© 2018 Ugarte, Tobón, Lopes and Machado. The mechanisms of atrial fibrillation (AF) are a challenging research topic. The rotor hypothesis states that the AF is sustained by a reentrant wave that propagates around an unexcited core. Cardiac tissue heterogeneities, both structural and cellular, play an important role during fibrillatory dynamics, so that the ionic characteristics of the currents, their spatial distribution and their structural heterogeneity determine the meandering of the rotor. Several studies about rotor dynamics implement the standard diffusion equation. However, this mathematical scheme carries some limitations. It assumes the myocardium as a continuous medium, ignoring, therefore, its discrete and heterogeneous aspects. A computational model integrating both, electrical and structural properties could complement experimental and clinical results. A new mathematical model of the action potential propagation, based on complex fractional order derivatives is presented. The complex derivative order appears of considering the myocardium as discrete-scale invariant fractal. The main aim is to study the role of a myocardial, with fractal characteristics, on atrial fibrillatory dynamics. For this purpose, the degree of structural heterogeneity is described through derivatives of complex order γ = α + jβ. A set of variations for γ is tested. The real part α takes values ranging from 1.1 to 2 and the imaginary part β from 0 to 0.28. Under this scheme, the standard diffusion is recovered when α = 2 and β = 0. The effect of γ on the action potential propagation over an atrial strand is investigated. Rotors are generated in a 2D model of atrial tissue under electrical remodeling due to chronic AF. The results show that the degree of structural heterogeneity, given by γ, modulates the electrophysiological properties and the dynamics of rotor-type reentrant mechanisms. The spatial stability of the rotor and the area of its unexcited core are modulated. As the real part decreases and the imaginary part increases, simulating a higher structural heterogeneity, the vulnerable window to reentrant is increased, as the total meandering of the rotor tip. This in silico study suggests that structural heterogeneity, described by means of complex order derivatives, modulates the stability of rotors and that a wide range of rotor dynamics can be generated.
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